As the NBA explores the possibility of ending their one-and-done rule and allowing players to make the leap from high school to the league once again, two of the most prominent high school draft picks of the 90s are teaming up to launch a sports agency.
Tracy McGrady and Jermaine O’Neal were drafted out of high school in back-to-back years and shared an agent, now-Pistons executive Arn Tellem, and the two told Marc Stein of the New York Times that their conversations as longtime friends have steadily shifted to how they can best help the next generation of player. Both run youth programs that have produced some NBA talent — including O’Neal’s Drive Nation seeing Tyrese Maxey, R.J. Hampton, and Cade Cunningham pass through its doors recently — and they came to the conclusion that the best way they can provide guidance and assistance to the next generation of hoopers is to launch an agency.
“We think it’s needed, and we have a passion for it,” McGrady said. “We’re around kids every single day because we have youth programs. It just makes sense. We see the lack of information that these kids are getting, so we would be doing a disservice to our people if we don’t lend our expertise of what we know and help guide them. This is a calling that we have.”
The agency, which they call Seven1 Sports Group and Entertainment in a nod to their two jersey numbers as players, will feature McGrady as co-owner and advisor, with Stein noting he’s likely to leave his post at ESPN, and O’Neal will look to pass the league’s test to be certified as an agent. The two will also look to bring in some tenured agents to fill in the gaps in negotiating and the subtleties of the business that they need to learn, but the passion for helping young players and imparting the wisdom both have gained over the years is tremendous for both of them.
“Make no mistake,” O’Neal said, “this is very personal.”
O’Neal discussed his struggles during his career with not having his father, who died at the age of 30, and not having that relationship in his life. McGrady echoed that, noting he didn’t have a strong relationship with his father during his career, which he said was especially difficult while he battled the knee injury that derailed his career while in Houston. For both, starting the agency seems to be far more than an effort at a business venture, but an opportunity to provide young players with not only guidance but someone to lean on during times where they might be struggling.
The two hope to begin bringing in players ahead of the 2021 NBA Draft, with O’Neal taking the agent’s exam in January 2021. How successful they’ll be in landing top talent remains to be seen, but they certainly have a unique pitch as the two most accomplished players turned agents in the business.